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The Rebellion is Striving for the Long Run

Jul 31, 2023

While longevity may be viewed as a job hazard for those toiling in fashion, entertainment, music and social media, a new agency, The Rebellion, is trying to use it as a selling point.

Fittingly, the one-stop shop has been launched by three seasoned executives: Scott Lipps, Caleb White and Rachel Zimmerman, whose strategy is to foster bonds with clients for years versus having them jump ship for other agencies.

About six weeks ago, a joint venture was quietly formed between Lipps LA and Zombie Model Management to launch The Rebellion, which now has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Zombie Model Management is the parent company. About 200 celebrities, models and influencers are expected to be represented, and the plan is to maintain that range to foster clients instead of over expanding. The trio likened their approach to mentoring a child from pre-kindergarten and staying through 12th grade.

Six years ago, Lipps, a former professional musician, started Lipps LA, after 16 years as founder and president of One Management in New York. White is director of Zombie Model Management, and Zimmerman is the company's director of scouting and development. Their combined base of talent include Helena Christensen, Devon Aoki, Courtney Love, Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova, Chiare Ferragni, Rocky Barnes, Morgan Yates , Daniela Slobodianiuk and Justine Skye among others.

Through another joint venture two years ago, Zombie brought Ford Models back to Miami. During a recent interview, the three founders spoke of their personalized strategy, instinctively building upon each other's thoughts. "We’re not some rich billionaires, who just decided to open a modeling agency. There's a passion behind it. A big majority of our lives has been in the fashion industry and entertainment," Zimmerman said. "You have celebrities, creatives and models — that's what the world has come to these days. We’re focusing on strengthening each category, and protecting and managing all three of them. Usually, other agencies are focused on one area. We’re really trying to focus on what our fashion industry has become."

With 30 years of experiences, Lipps questioned whether there were any other agencies that are doing all three of these things. "A one-stop shop is what we would like to be for brand needs, for fashion and things like that," he said.

Well-versed in how talent are facing issues that didn't exist five or 10 years ago, such as photographers, brands, producers and others approaching them directly via social media, the founders are trying to help clients sidestep such problems and potential wage losses. White has seen such fostering within Zombie, when two or three models excel, others within the agency will stay close to them or approach them for advice. Conversely, he has also seen that those who think they can forge ahead on their own without representation discover that they do need an agent "and to trust somebody with [their] career, who is doing this on a day-to-day basis."

Lipps recalled the skepticism he faced when he started representing years ago, when the concept of charging brands for social media posts was questioned. I said, "’Well, this is where things are heading.’ If you look at it now, it's very gray. Some of the biggest models in the world are influencers or creators. And a lot of celebrities are creators."

Given the breadth of that market, creators often do jobs on their own and unauthorized usage issues can arise, such as an ad being used without permission. Lipps said that being brought into such situations "at the 11th hour," is often too late, and that the idea is to protect people and their whole brands.

However easy it is to accept a business deal when approached directly on social media, talent often do so for substantially less money, he said. "We live in a different era now, but it does take a team. It's not about one person, but everybody chipping in to help each other achieve their goals."

White agreed, having had several instances where models will notice their friends’ years-old campaigns in foreign countries, which turns out to be news to the models who appeared in them. "We normally do recoup the money from that, but that's thanks to the model squad out there."

Zimmerman, a former model, noted how hard it is to keep track of campaigns that may be used without permission well after the contractual limit. "Some clients get sticky," Zimmerman said, adding that a hair product campaign she did resurfaced for 20 years.

While models and other talent routinely are attracted by agencies’ big names, White tries to impress upon models that "those people will come and go," but knowing who is inside those agencies and who the workers are are the most important resources for a new face.

Having only wanted to embark on this venture with Lipps and Zimmerman, White said, "I want this agency to be fun. I don't want the politics of the fashion world coming into to destroy it. If you think about a tech company, where they make it fun to work at — not that childish — but with [the ethos] of ‘We’re lucky to be in this business and are fortunate to be working with the celebrities.’"

With corporate values and personal views — whether that be related to gender, race, politics or any of the other hot-button issues — increasingly being shared publicly, and in some instances leading to controversies, The Rebellion's management is trying to remain neutral. "I’ve always tried to stay like Switzerland so-to-speak when it comes to things like that. I see so many agencies speaking out on Instagram and I don't know how true they feel about those things or if they are just trying to keep up with everybody else. What I do like is for the girls to be vocal. I can never silence the girls, boys or celebrities. It's their choice to speak out," White said.

To that end, a Zombie-represented Ukrainian model was in the U.S. when Russian military forces invaded her home country. "She did everything she could to stick up for her country and we were right there to support her. But when it comes to certain things, I don't think it's our place to make those calls. It is to support the girls and the boys about what they feel and stand beside them," White said, adding that the model refused one job, due to a stipulation that the campaign would be featured in Russia.

"In business, there's a place to speak about politics and overly opinionated things about certain topics. That's really not why we are here to work. If it is a huge platform to make a change on something, we can all come together to discuss it if we feel the company should speak about it. But on a day-to-day basis with everything that is going on every single day, I don't want us to become the agency that's all we are. There are a few out there where that's what they do — they hop on every train that comes in and comment on everything."

All in all, Lipps said young talent needs to be thinking about the long-term and longevity in the business. "If you have someone guiding the business decisions that you make and will help you, you’ll have longevity there," he said.

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